The Most Complete Guide to Making an Online Course
So I recently created an Instagram post about how I started a side-hustle by creating an online course in a mere 4 weeks. Since then, I have been getting a lot of questions about how I made my online course and what is required to create a course quickly.
When I started, I didn’t find any online resources that would explain the whole process from the start to the end. I had to gather all these little puzzle pieces from the deepest darkest corners of the Internet and suffer the pain of putting them together to see how it all works. Having been through so much, I decided that I’m going to be the guy every online course creator is going to hate by revealing all the secrets that I’ve learned so you, my friend, can create your own online course quickly and easily. And yes, please send me some good karma by subscribing and smashing the clap button if you find value along the way.
In this article, I’m going to cover:
- what equipment you need to get started
- how to create your course outline
- how to set up your own studio
- how to record your videos
- what to use and where to learn to edit your videos
- which platform to use to sell your online course
- how to market and sell your course
The process is simple but there are a lot of things to consider. So grab your pen and paper or open up your notes app, you are going to need to write a few things down and create a plan.
To record ourselves, share our slides/lessons and edit our content, we are going to need a few items to ensure we create quality content. Now if you do not have the items below and nor the means to invest in them, it’s not the end of the world. Look for cheaper alternatives with the same functionality. Here is the most recommended equipment:
A computer with at least 2.7 GHz of processing power
This can be an Apple or non-Apple desktop or laptop computer. I personally own a Macbook Pro and it meets the requirements. Why does processing power matter? Simple. Because we want to avoid staring at a spinning wheel on our video editing software. Without enough processing power, your editing software is not going to be able to handle the load of your processing edits on your videos. The program will get stuck and you may lose all your edits. For now, we have to rely on a device with higher than average processing power that can handle our video editing software’s needs.
A tablet or a phone that you can write on with a smart pen
Whatever skill we are teaching others, we are going to share some notes one way or another with our students. The most engaging actions that we can take during our lessons is to write over notes, circle pictures and pointing at things on the screen as we speak. So we are going to need a tablet and a smartpen to write over our notes. I am using an iPad and an Apple pen which are the highest quality writing equipment where the screen can be recorded. How do we record the iPad screen and put it into a video? Don’t worry. I’m going to tell you about all that in the Recording section.
Good quality microphones
Please… for the love of God, don’t just use your phone’s and laptop’s microphones. We want to distinguish ourselves as someone who creates quality material. After all, you are sharing your life’s work with others and inspiring others to learn a skill and achieve excellence. An affordable alternative to your phone’s microphone is the PowerDeWise Lavalier microphone.
If you want to go all-in on your online course creation, a popular high-quality microphone that plugs into your laptop’s USB port is the Blue Yeti USB microphone.
Any camera that has a strong auto-focus capability
If your phone is made after 2018, it probably meets that requirement. There is no need to go and buy a super expensive camera if you already have a phone or camera that has these two features:
- It can record 60 frames/second (fps)
- It has auto-focus capability so that it can focus on your face during recording
I am using a Canon G7X.
A camera stand
A camera stand ensures you can adjust the height of the camera so you can record yourself at your desired angle. If you are just sitting in a single position and not moving around a lot, you can stack a bunch of books on top of each other and call it a camera stand. Problem solved!
Before we get started on recording ourselves and sharing our invaluable knowledge, we need to have a clear understanding of our students’ learning expectations. We want to determine what exactly we’re going to be teaching throughout the course and create a roadmap of the learning experience.
This calls for a clear list of topics and sub-topics that we are going to cover throughout the course. This is where we create our notes, our diagrams, our examples and our explanations and organize them in sections and sub-sections.
Along the way, we want to have quizzes and assignments to ensure students understand the concepts we teach.
An awesome software for organizing your course content is Notion! Take advantage of the power of templates in this software to organize your thoughts.
Your Own Studio
When it comes to recording our lessons, rule number 1 is to make sure that we are consistent with where we sit, how we position items around us and the angle at which we position the camera. So make sure to test these factors and have a few dry runs before you get started.
Another big point is lighting in our room. We want to rely on the natural light coming through a window and having a neutral colour background. The best practice is to record our videos during the same hours of the day so that the lighting remains consistent.
The next important factor is to ensure that you have a quiet atmosphere. Your microphone can pick up sounds from everywhere so reducing noise pollution in your videos is absolutely critical. Make sure to put a sign up on your door so others know you are recording.
For those of you who have an iPad and a Macbook, here is how we record our iPad screen and voice simultaneously.
- First, we connect our iPad to our Macbook.
- Second, we connect our microphone to our Macbook. If your microphone doesn’t have a USB port and can’t get connected to your Macbook, make sure you just hook it up to your recording device and press record.
- Open QuickTime and in the top bar, click File > New Movie Recording
4. QuickTime > File > New Movie Recording
5. Click on the small drop-down arrow next to the record button and make sure the following is set properly on QuickTime:
- Change screen device to iPad so that you can see your iPad screen on your MacBook.
- Change the microphone device to the microphone that you have connected. You will see the name of your microphone there.
In the next step, we set up the camera and position it such that our face is in the middle of the screen. Ideally, we want to see ourselves as we record the video so the front-facing camera of a phone would work better unless you are confident about your camera positioning.
Once you start recording, you are going to be making mistakes. Yes, you can edit the mistakes out but editing mistakes out of your videos is much more time consuming than actually retaking the video or repeating yourself. So don’t be shy, start over and retake the lesson as you need to!
This is something that I initially struggled with and I didn’t realize how important it is until I got to editing the videos. Here is a simple tip:
Every time you make a mistake in your video, clap your hands and start from the top of the thought that you were sharing.
Why clap? Clapping creates a high amplitude wave sound in your video which is easy to see and locate in your editing software so you don’t go searching for it.
The software that we use for editing our videos is going to be Final Cut Pro X. It is quite expensive, about $400 CAD or $300 USD before tax. But here is a little secret:
It’s available for 90 days of free trial which is as much as you need to create at least one course before deciding to purchase it or find an alternative.
You definitely need a Macbook Pro or another computer with a high processing power for this one as video editing can get really slow without enough CPU power.
Where do you learn to edit your videos? So many secrets…
The fastest way to learn how to use Final Cut Pro X is … (drum roll please) taking an online course. That’s right. And the most resourceful platform full of tutorials on Final Cut Pro X is Skillshare. But wait! Another secret! You can sign up for Skillshare for 2 months for free which gives you plenty of time to learn video editing.
Click on this link to get 2 months of free access to Skillshare.
It took me about 1 week to learn everything that I needed to know as I edited my videos on Final Cut Pro. I found Skillshare’s courses extremely useful in teaching the basics so go ahead and look for a course that you’d think you’d enjoy.
A tip that I can share about editing our videos is to ensure both our face and our tablet screen are within the same shot. Here is how mine looks like
Okay, let’s take a deep breath. I’ve shared a lot of information here and it might be a bit overwhelming. Ready? Let’s talk about online course platforms.
Now a lot of people are thinking of getting their course on Udemy, Skillshare or on their own dedicated website, but which one is the right one for you?
Let’s break a few things down.
Choosing what platform to share our content is highly dependent on our social media reach. The higher our social media reach and following, the less we would want to go with third party course providers like Udemy or Skillshare. Why?
Because they take a huge chunk of our revenue as part of their platform costs.
Udemy takes 50% of our class revenue if the students don’t use our referral link. With a referral link, we can get 97% of the revenue of our sales which is nice. However, Udemy encourages us to participate in their promotions program in which they slash our original course price up to 75% in order to increase their sales. As to when and how much they reduce our course price for the promotion, it is unclear and completely out of our control.
If you have an Instagram channel that has more than 10K followers and you are sure that at least 5% of your followers will purchase your course, your best bet is to go with an independent online course platform that allows you to create, market and sell your course all by yourself.
The platform that I used to upload my material is called Thinkific. On this platform, we create an account, design our website and upload the material. Thinkific’s platform is pretty intuitive but there’s a bit of a learning curve with it.
Your first 3 courses on Thinkific are completely free. Bear in mind that the free version of this platform has limited functionality. For example, you cannot incorporate assignments into your course on the free version.
The Thinkific platform is pretty huge in terms of numbers of functionalities so make sure to take your time to get acquainted with it.
Marketing & Sales
A successful course is not one that is just created and has high quality. It also needs to be one that people actually purchase. This calls for marketing and sales efforts.
We need to determine the price of our course. This decision is hugely driven by our competitors. If a competitor is offering a course similar to ours, we have to offer our course at a slightly lower price to get the students we need. This can be your initial sales strategy until your reputation becomes well-established and you get enough raving reviews about your quality content.
Our initial marketing efforts need to spread the word through our personal connections and network. Next, we have to create a social media strategy around Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube. We can pick the platforms of our choice depending on where we would think most of our future students are awaiting us.
Having decided our platform of choice, creating content on a daily basis is key to establishing our online presence as an expert in a subject matter. We want to share small bits of our course and knowledge to draw the audience in for more. A nice little tease!
Since we are in the 2020’s being personable on your social media goes a long way. We have to engage with our audience on a personal level by encouraging them to ask questions, by replying to their messages and by commenting on their photos and stories. In this new era of communication, we have to stay in touch by providing constant value to our potential customers.
So here we are! You have probably spent almost 10 minutes getting to this point so give your back and neck a little break. Move them side to side and do a bit of a stretch.
I can imagine how many questions are running in your head right now. Your sense of curiosity is bubbling and overflowing along with the excitement of sharing your knowledge. After all, the course that you are to make is going to change someone’s life and the crazy thing is, it is going to be there for a long time. It’s going to be there to help generations of people.
If you have any questions about the online course creation process, make sure to leave a comment or send me a message on Instagram.